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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Sporting Kansas City: Final Score 2-1 as the Lions Extend Unbeaten Streak to Seven Games

Tesho Akindele and Benji Michel scored in the first half and the Lions held on through an intense second-half onslaught by the hosts.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City just keeps doing things it has never done before. A week after beating the Chicago Fire at home for the first time ever, the Lions went into Children’s Mercy Park and claimed their first win there with a 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City. Tesho Akindele and Benji Michel scored just a couple of minutes apart in the first half and Orlando (7-2-4, 25 points) held on for dear life through a rough second half, conceding a Johnny Russell goal but ultimately holding off SKC (6-5-2, 20 points).

With the win, Orlando climbed to second in the Eastern Conference standings, winning a tiebreaker over Philadelphia on goals scored and another over Toronto on goal differential. The Lions also extended their unbeaten streak to seven games (5-0-2), setting a new club record in the MLS era.

“I’m very proud of the three points,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I think tonight we beat one of the best teams in the West.”

Pareja’s lineup included some squad rotation in key areas. Pedro Gallese manned the goal as usual, with Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Ruan slotting in on the back line. Kamal Miller went to the bench, while Antonio Carlos was not in the match day squad at all. Andres Perea and Michel stepped into the midfield with Junior Urso and Sebas Mendez, with Chris Mueller and Mauricio Pereyra on the bench, and Nani took up an attacking position with Akindele, as Daryl Dike got his first breather since the regular season restarted. Dike was in the matchday squad, though.

Sporting Kansas City pushed high up the pitch early and had success turning Orlando over and keeping possession, but without getting any real clear-cut scoring opportunities. The first good chance of the match went to the hosts after Schlegel was booked for a handball when he went down to block a pass on a counter attack and the ball hit his arm. Graham Zusi curled his set piece wide of the left post on the set piece.

Orlando saw almost no possession in the attacking third in the first 20 minutes, but got an opportunity when a through ball found Michel and he was taken down by Matt Besler, setting up a free kick. Nani sent in the set piece to Schlegel, who got under it and headed well over the bar at the near post in the 25th minute.

The Lions started getting more opportunities and more set pieces as the half went on. But it was the counter where Orlando found success. Ruan found himself in space and threaded an excellent through ball for a perfectly timed run by Akindele. Tesho sized up goalkeeper Tim Melia and curled a shot around him and inside the near post to make it 1-0 in the 36th minute.

For Akindele, it was his second league goal of the season. He last scored in a non-MLS is Back knockout stage match back on July 14 against New York City FC during the group stage.

“It’s something that we’ve talked about before the game,” Akindele said about the team attacking SKC’s offside trap. “We have, obviously, a fast lineup out there, especially with me and Benji. We knew that we should be looking for the balls in behind.

“On my goal, I saw Ruan just taking it in. Benji did a good job of making the first run and he kind of brought a defender or two with him. Then I saw the gap open up and Ruan made a great pass. I honestly thought I was offside because I had so much space, but then I just relaxed, waited for the spot to open up, and finished it.”

The dust had barely settled from Akindele’s goal when the Lions struck again in transition. Nani sent a gorgeous ball over the top for Michel to run onto. Besler grabbed him and pulled him back, but Michel fought him off and slotted home past Melia in the 38th minute to double the lead. The strike gave Michel his fourth goal in the last five games.

“Benji is very docile to coach,” Pareja said. “He is growing. He is understanding and interpreting much better the spaces.”

“ I think that [Michel’s] thinking about the game more than he was before,” Akindele said. “Benji is at practice before everyone and he’s working on his own and that’s something nobody sees. He’s hitting the gym. He’s passing the ball. He’s doing a lot of work on his own this year, really trying to improve himself as a player. You know, that’s something that nobody sees, he hasn’t been talking about it but it’s happening and I think everybody’s seen the results that right now.”

The end of the first half consisted of several Sporting KC corners that Orlando defended well, and the Lions took their 2-0 lead into the break. Orlando led in shots (4-3), as well as shots on goal (2-0) and possession (53.6%). SKC racked up a 7-1 edge in corner kicks. Both teams were 86% accurate with their passes.

After the break, the Lions did what they have done far too often this year and came out of the locker room with too little energy and passion. SKC no doubt heard an earful from Peter Vermes at halftime and played like it, owning the ball and not giving it up at all. There were more corners and crosses and the hosts finally made it pay off.

A cross to the back post was played too softly by Kyle Smith, who tried to usher it out rather than attacking it and Russell played right through him, out-muscling the Orlando left back and heading home to make it 2-1.

There was no let-up from the hosts, who seemingly possessed the ball for the entire first 15 minutes of the second period. Orlando couldn’t find the handle and when the Lions did get a touch, they’d immediately turn it right back over.

“I think they were just throwing numbers forward,” Akindele said. “Their center backs did well at winning the long balls that we tried to hit out. So, you know, that’s on me and the forwards. I think we could have done a little bit better job of trying to hold the ball up in the second half. That might have eased some pressure.”

After a shot from Russell fizzed wide in the 60th minute, Pareja brought Pereyra into the match to help get more of the ball but it was merely a band-aid, and the Lions needed reinforcements from Dike and Mueller to calm things down a bit — but only a bit. Orlando did start to get on the ball more but certainly not as much as they would have liked.

Gadi Kinda fired a couple of shots from distance over the bar in the 67th and 70th minutes and Nani did the same at the end of a good-looking counterattacking buildup in the 75th.

A minute later, the hosts appeared to tie up the match when a clearance by Jansson hit Russell and bounced behind the beefy Swede. It was picked up by SKC and was sent into the area where it got lost in traffic and trickled over the line, but the play was ruled offside and it was upheld on video review.

Orlando’s best opportunity at an insurance goal came in the 84th, when Urso knocked a ball out of the air to himself and hit it first time, sending a rocket toward goal. We’ll never know if it would have gone in because it hit Mueller in the stomach. A minute later, Dike got the ball and went 1-v-3 against the Sporting defense, freeing himself up for a shot but he sent his effort over the bar.

Gerso sent a laser on target from outside the area in the 86th but Gallese was there to knock it over the bar.

Defender Winston Reid got the last good look for SKC in stoppage time with a header off a corner kick but he sent his shot wide and the Lions held on to get the win.

Sporting Kansas City finished with more shots (16-8), but Orlando got more on frame (3-2). SKC had a commanding 13-1 advantage in corners and turned the possession around to hold 56.6% of the ball. The hosts passed at an 83% rate but the Lions faded in the second half to just 77%.

“We were very happy with the three points, and the first half, we played very well,” Jansson said. “The second half is completely Sporting so we are a little bit disappointed on the second half, but we came here to get three points and sometimes you need to do it different ways.”

The Lions have one more on the road before returning to Exploria Stadium, with a Sunday night match-up at FC Dallas in Oscar Pareja’s return to his old address. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Photo Gallery

An album of images from Orlando City’s hard-fought draw at home against the Herons.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

The Lions brought much more roar on Sunday night to face their southern rivals but had trouble finding the net, allowing the Herons to nick a point even while short staffed. None of Miami’s high-priced talent traveled for the match after facing Toronto midweek, and physicality ensued, firing up the sold-out crowd at Exploria Stadium.

Talking with some of the other photographers on the sideline who had flown in for this match, they rated the Orlando atmosphere top-notch; in their experience, other cities don’t compare to the in-stadium fan enthusiasm.

The Lions were in “the net is lava” mode, with Duncan McGuire and Iván Angulo each missing prime one-on-one chances with Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender in each half, McGuire leaving it straight at Callendar, and Angulo badly missing the net after a missed first touch. So of course Miami struck first, with David Ruíz scoring early in the second half.

This fired the Lions up even more and Martín Ojeda pinballed McGuire in behind the Miami back line, allowing Duncan to do what Duncan does to draw the score level. The Lions generally looked the more dangerous team for most (but not all) of the night. However, it is scorin ggoals that actually counts, leaving both teams unchanged in their respective Eastern Conference standings. Orlando remains second at 14-7-9, while Miami stays in 14th at 9-15-5.

The Lions continue to control their own destiny in terms of getting a top-four finish as they look to lock up home field advantage for a best-of-three matchup in the MLS Cup playoffs.

With home dates left against Montreal and a sputtering-but-dangerous New England remaining, there’s still plenty of time to be part of that world-class gameday atmosphere by going out to support the team as they push for a strong finish.

We hope that you enjoy these images from a hard-fought, come-from-behind draw against Inter Miami at Exploria Stadium.

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways

Here’s what we learned from Orlando City’s 1-1 draw at home against Inter Miami.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City returned to Exploria Stadium after a midweek loss to New York City FC and had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Inter Miami. The Lions did well to equalize after conceding first, but will likely feel that they left opportunity knocking as the Eastern Conference remains tight near the top. Here are my five takeaways from the third Tropic Thunder clash this year.

Lack of Execution Plagues the Lions

Orlando’s offense struggled to put the ball in the back of the net in this match. That’s not to say they didn’t create quality chances, as the Lions served up good crosses and dangerous long balls throughout the match. Only three of Orlando’s 16 crosses found their mark in the end. The execution just wasn’t there when it came to finishing attacks, whether it be poor decision-making when the time came to play the final ball or just missing the target completely. Of Orlando’s 13 shots, six were on target and only a couple of those gave Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender much difficulty. Ivan Angulo missing the goal entirely after Dagur Dan Thorhallsson picked out a perfect pass for him stands out. Expecting every promising attack to end with a goal is unfair, but weak finishing cost the Lions from claiming a big win at home.

Corner Kicks Gave the Lions Headaches

While the Lions didn’t have any corner kicks in the match, Inter Miami had seven and created some of its best chances with them. In the 61st minute, a corner kick taken by Robert Taylor found Leonardo Campana all alone in the center of the box. The Ecuadorian forward’s header mercifully went wide, but it was indicative of how Orlando had its hands full on set pieces. Pedro Gallese had to come up with a remarkable save in the first half as well after Campana barreled through Cartagena to head the ball at goal. Even though the Lions didn’t concede from a set piece, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s something focused on this week just to ensure the team is organized enough to overcome uncalled fouls without needing its star goalkeeper or some luck.

Plenty of Physicality in Rivalry Match

It was easy to tell these two teams didn’t care much for each other, as they both fought hard on and off the ball. There were 27 fouls and seven yellow cards handed out by referee Armando Villarreal. Miami committed 16 of those fouls and received five of the yellow cards as they did whatever it took to slow down Orlando’s progress. Facundo Torres suffered the brunt of it and was fouled four times so that he couldn’t work his magic against Miami’s defense. It was the kind of physical match that can be expected of two rivals and made for an intense match that will likely have players from both sides seeking an ice bath. The Lions did well to stay composed for a majority of a very chippy match.

Duncan McGuire Shakes Off the Rust

Forward Duncan McGuire got back to his scoring ways with a crucial equalizer for his ninth goal of the MLS season. It was an important goal for reasons beyond the scoreline as well, as McGuire had squandered a golden opportunity to score earlier in the match by not being able to get his shot past Callender. He was also kicking himself for not getting on the end of a few other chances as well. His 84 minutes on the field were the most from him in one game this season, and the Lions will need him more often now that Ercan Kara is in Turkey. It was the rookie’s first goal since July and, although not perfect, the kind of performance to build upon moving forward.

Orlando Showcased Its Depth and Versatility

Head Coach Oscar Pareja switched things up at halftime, replacing Cesar Araujo with Martin Ojeda and having Mauricio Pereyra sit a bit deeper in the midfield to potentially create chances on the break a bit quicker using his service. Although Ojeda didn’t get a goal or an assist, his presence was notable on both sides of the ball and he played a key role in Orlando’s goal. Having a player of his caliber able to come off the bench has been a boon for Orlando this season, letting Pareja really kickstart the changes he wants to make to the team. Similar things could be said about Orlando’s other substitutes: Junior Urso, Ramiro Enrique, Gaston Gonzalez, and Michael Halliday. Their energy and skill kept Orlando pushing for more and gave the sense that a winner would have come had the game lasted a bit longer.

That’s what I took away from Orlando’s 1-1 draw with Inter Miami. Let me know what you gathered from the match in the comments below

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/25/23

Orlando City draws with Inter Miami, Viviana Villacorta out for the season, OCB wins last game of the regular season, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Last night’s Orlando City match wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst either. It’s a pretty fitting feeling on a Monday, as we all get back into the swing of the work week after a nice weekend of soccer. There are plenty of ups and downs from a rollercoaster Sunday, so let’s dive right into today’s links!

Orlando City Draws With Inter Miami

In the latest edition of the Tropic Thunder rivalry, Orlando City and Inter Miami split the points at Exploria Stadium in a 1-1 result. Miami struck first, but the Lions did well to find an equalizer, even though they couldn’t find a winner in the end. It wasn’t Orlando’s best game by any means, but it was a decent response to a 2-0 loss on the road to New York City FC. Orlando now has 51 points, tying its club record for the most points in a season, set in 2021. The Lions will have a chance to break that record on Saturday when they host CF Montreal.

Viviana Villacorta Out for the Season

Orlando Pride midfielder Viviana Villacorta will miss the remainder of the NWSL season after suffering an ACL tear in her left knee during training. The 24-year-old was selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft, but was not able to make her debut until 2022 due to sustained an ACL tear in her right knee that kept her out for all of the 2021 season. This year, she has 21 appearances across all competitions for the Pride and notched the first assist of her career in a big road win against the San Diego Wave on April 29. This is a tough blow to the Pride’s midfield with just three games remaining as she has ended her season early due to injury for the third straight year. The Pride are only a point out of a playoff spot and are back in action on Oct. 2 against Angel City FC.

Orlando City B Wins On Decision Day

On the final day of the MLS NEXT Pro regular season, Orlando City B won 2-1 at home over FC Cincinnati 2. The Young Lions had already clinched a spot in the postseason heading into this match, but the win secured their spot as the fifth seed. Jack Lynn briefly held the Golden Boot lead after scoring, but ended up tied at 19 goals with New York City FC II’s Matt Myers and Colorado Rapids 2’s Remi Cabral. The trio ended in a three-way tie for the league’s Golden Boot honors. OCB will hit the road for its first MLS NEXT Pro playoff game, although the opponent is not yet known thanks to the new rule where higher seeds choose which team they want to face.

USWNT Wins in Megan Rapinoe’s Final Match

The United States Women’s National Team beat South Africa in a 2-0 win at Soldier Field. Trinity Rodman and Emily Sonnett scored and the defense did well to secure its second shutout against South Africa after a 3-0 win this past Thursday. This game also marked forward Megan Rapinoe’s final game with the USWNT, with the 38-year-old subbed off for the last time in the 54th minute. These were solid wins from the USWNT following the World Cup and it will aim to keep the momentum rolling next month in a pair of friendlies against Colombia.

Free Kicks

  • Three Orlando City academy sides came up with shutout victories this weekend.
  • Before the USWNT’s friendly with South Africa, U.S. Soccer Sporting Director Matt Crocker stated that plans remain in place for a new head coach to be at the helm in time for the training camp in December
  • American midfielder Yunus Musah did well in his AC Milan debut, playing all 90 minutes in a 1-0 win over Verona.
  • A match in the Netherlands between Ajax and Feyenoord had to be abandoned due to fans throwing fireworks onto the field while Feyenoord led 3-0. According to police, tear gas had to be used to stop unrest outside the stadium after the match, and Ajax later fired Sven Mislintat, its director of soccer.
  • Newcastle became the first English Premier League team to have eight different players score in a match after crushing Sheffield United, 8-0.
  • Atletico Madrid ended Real Madrid’s perfect start to the season by beating its rival 3-1, with Alvaro Morata bagging a brace.

That’s all I have for you today, Mane Landers. I hope you all have an easy Monday and rest of your week!

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